Millions of Americans are carrying on with their travel plans ahead of Thanksgiving weekend despite the CDC's urgent warnings to stay home as the number of daily cases and hospitalizations in the country continue to hit record highs.
More than 193,000 new infections were recorded in the US on Friday, breaking its previous largest single-day spike record from Thursday, and over 82,000 patients are now hospitalized across the country.
Daily deaths also skyrocketed to 2,015, the highest number of fatalities per day since May during the initial peak of the virus, according to health data from Johns Hopkins University.
The alarming surge shows the nation is facing a second wave of the virus this winter that could be more dangerous and widespread than the initial outbreak earlier this year.
'When you look at what's happening now, the rate of rise is dramatically different,' White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, Dr Deborah Birx told CNN. 'This is faster. It's broader. And what worries me, it could be longer.'
It's also sparked fears among health experts that Thanksgiving travel and holiday gatherings next week will only fuel the spread and prolong the length of the pandemic.
PHOENIX: In Arizona, travelers were seen crowding the gates at Phoenix's Sky Harbor on Friday where one person described the scene 'about as crowded as it was before COVID hit'
PHOENIX: Passenger Ed Westerfield shared footage of travelers at the terminal as he boarded a flight to Puerto Vallarta
PHOENIX: Some passengers said they weren't even aware of the CDC's recommendations while others said they planned to travel nonetheless
Fears of a Thanksgiving surge have prompted many states and cities to impose near-lockdowns or other restrictions ahead of the holiday - typically the busiest travel day of the year in the United States
With the holidays around the corner, Dr Birx said Americans should help mitigate the spread of infection by limiting their Thanksgiving gatherings to immediate family members, rather than a maximum number of people.
The CDC on Thursday also recommended people avoid traveling during the holiday and advised against gathering with anyone who has not lived in the same household for at least 14 days, the incubation period for the virus.
Despite experts' warnings, millions of Americans are going forward with their travel plans, with photos showing large crowds at airports across the country ahead of the holiday weekend.
Long lines of passengers were seen snaking around terminals at Chicago O'Hare International Airport on Friday with little social distancing practices observed.
In Arizona, travelers were seen crowding the gates at Phoenix's Sky Harbor, where one described the scene 'about as crowded as it was before COVID hit.'
'This is just jam-packed,' said passenger Ed Westerfield, who shared footage of travelers boarding a flight to Puerto Vallarta.
Some passengers told KTVK they weren't even aware of the travel advice from the CDC, while others said they still planned to travel nonetheless.
Curt Vurpillat, who was flying to Chicago, said the recommendation amid the surge of cases didn't 'trouble him at all.'
'Not that I don't think it's real, but I have a life to live and things to do, so we take necessary precautions,' he told the news station.
Similar scenes unfolded earlier this week at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey as well as LAX.
It comes ahead the annual Thanksgiving rush on the day before the holiday which is typically the busiest travel day of the year in the United States.
CHICAGO: Long lines of passengers were seen snaking around terminals at Chicago O'Hare International Airport on Friday with little social distancing practices observed
CHICAGO: The recent weeks' soaring numbers of coronavirus cases in Illinois prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reimpose harsher restrictions on social interaction. Pictured: Travelers at Chicago O'Hare on Friday
CHICAGO: People walk through a terminal as other wait in line at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Friday
This year, shares in airlines and hotel companies have plummeted since the outbreak began as government officials have advised against unnecessary travel.
According to the AAA travel agency, the number of travelers this Thanksgiving is estimated to dip by at least 10 per cent - the largest single-year drop since 2008 - to 50million.
With the CDC recommendations, it expects that number now to be even lower.
However, the travel advice however is only a 'strong recommendation' not a requirement, meaning there will be millions who will travel regardless.
'Hopefully, they will put in place some common-sense measures to limit the damage the virus can cause,' Dr Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said.
The agency estimates 47.8million Americans will still travel for the holiday by car and another 2.4million will fly.
In New York, about 275,300 passengers are expected to fly out of JFK, 271,700 out of Newark, and 127,100 from LaGuardia as of Thursday between November 23 and 29, according to The New York Post.
The data by aviation analytics firm OAG shows more than 42,000 New Yorkers will fly to Orlando, while another 38,400 will travel to Ft Lauderdale; 33,200 to Atlanta; 27,700 to Los Angeles, and 25,000 to Miami.
NEW JERSEY: Little social distancing was seen among passengers lining up at Newark Liberty International Airport on Sunday
LAX: Travelers wait to check baggage for an American Airlines flight during the Covid-19 pandemic at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on November 18
PHILADELPHIA: Travelers make their way through the 30th Street Station ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Friday,
Fears of a Thanksgiving surge have prompted many states and cities to impose near-lockdowns or other restrictions.
California ordered a 10pm-to-5am curfew starting Saturday, covering 94 per cent of the state's 40 million residents.
The Texas border county of El Paso, where more than 300 people have died from COVID-19 since October, is advertising jobs for morgue workers capable of lifting bodies weighing 175 pounds or more.
Officials are offering more than $27 an hour for work described as not only physically arduous but 'emotionally taxing as well.'
The county had already begun paying jail inmates $2 an hour to help move corpses and has ordered at least 10 refrigerated trucks as morgues run out of room.
COVID-19 deaths in the US are at their highest level since